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Press Release



February 4, 2021
Contact: Christina Mazzanti

Association of American Educators Announces the Passing of Founder Gary Beckner


Mission Viejo, CA – The Association of American Educators (AAE), a national, nonunion, professional association serving educators in all fifty states, announces that Gary Beckner, AAE’s chairman and president emeritus, passed away on January 26, 2021, at the age of seventy-five due to complications from COVID-19.


Gary Beckner founded the Association of American Educators in 1994 at the urging of many educators across the country, including several National Teachers of the Year, who were seeking a different type of association that supported their professional needs, advanced the education profession, focused on student achievement, and offered a more modern approach to educator empowerment and advocacy.


The organizations founded by Gary Beckner in 1994, AAE and AAE Foundation, have directly impacted the lives and careers of eighty thousand educators, provided millions of dollars’ worth of legal services to educators, saved educators tens of millions of dollars on their professional dues, and awarded over $500,000 to innovative classroom projects throughout the country.


“Gary and his wife Pieterke set out in 1994 with a bold vision, an unwavering faith, and a pioneering spirit. Devoted to improving education for all students they proceeded to spend the next quarter century proudly serving America’s educators,” said Colin Sharkey, who joined AAE in 2008 and succeeded Gary as executive director in 2019, “He will be missed by so many, and his important work will live on.”


A community college instructor and textbook author, Gary’s tireless commitment to teachers, school staff, administrators, and professors throughout the country helped AAE grow from its first member to tens of thousands of members today. Projects launched by Gary in the early years of AAE, including the national scholarship and grant program, Education Matters newsletter, and Code of Ethics for Educators are as popular as ever with educators and members. For more than twenty-five years as AAE’s executive director, Gary traveled the country speaking and meeting with members and supporters—many of whom became great friends.


Dr. DeLaina Tonks, a longtime friend and board member reflected at his passing on Gary’s impact, “He loved the AAE family like his own, he loved his life’s work, and he believed strongly in elevating the teaching profession.”


In 2019, after a quarter-century of leadership, Gary retired to serve as chairman and spend more time with his family, including his cherished grandchildren. AAE continues as a lasting testament to his vision, with dozens of staff and hundreds of volunteers serving members throughout the country. His loss will be felt by educators, families, and countless education advocates nationwide who share Gary’s vision of a professional association that serves educators who put students first.


For more on Gary’s life and his legacy, including photos and a place to submit condolences and reflections, visit


The Association of American Educators (AAE) is the largest national, nonunion, professional educator organization, advancing the profession by offering a modern approach to educator empowerment and advocacy—promoting professionalism, collaboration, and excellence without a partisan agenda. AAE is committed to a teaching profession that is student oriented, well respected, and personally fulfilling. AAE serves members in all fifty states and welcomes professionals from all education entities. Membership is $16.50 per month and includes $2 million professional liability insurance, employment rights coverage, professional resources, and many other benefits. Classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, student teachers, university professors, and supporters can learn more at